Interviewee: Jackie Pruitt
Interviewer: Carrie Streeter
Date: November 11, 2010
Jackie Pruitt was born in 1934 in Shelby, NC. She got a diploma at the Grace Hospital School of Nursing in 1955 and did work toward a B.S. In 1956, she began work at Broughton Hospital, a state psychiatric hospital. She returned to work there several times over the course of her career, and she also held jobs at a VA hospital and Dorothea Dix Hospital.
In the interview, Pruitt describes her education, focusing on her time in a small psychiatric hospital near Asheville, NC, and her duties there as a student nurse. She speaks about her family background, her decision to become a nurse, and her mentors in nursing. She remembers the details of psychiatric care over the course of her career: the process of giving medications, therapies like electric shock and insulin shock, treatment team meetings, and the food at Broughtonâs staff cafeteria. She describes the organization of wards at Broughton, the process of admission, and the extraordinary lengths of patientsâ hospital stays at the beginning of her career. Pruitt discusses interactions with doctors and patients and the role of patientsâ families in psychiatric care. She also speaks about working with patients who had criminal charges and about other serious topics such as sterilization and lobotomies.
Pruitt reflects on the changes she has observed in nursing and in mental health care. She discusses the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 and a march to protest the planned closing of Dorothea Dix Hospital. She has seen medications and therapies, as well as the roles and responsibilities of nurses, shift over time.